Saturday, October 21, 2017

Want happy guests? You have the power

Now, more than ever, your guests expect technology-based amenities to support their gadget love affair.

A mobile phone has become a soul mate in all things home and work. Being torn away from a daily routine, even for something as enjoyable as a holiday, can be difficult for guests. Which is why you will rarely catch a living soul without their smartphone/tablet/laptop clutched tightly in their hand or tucked into a nearby bag. Connection is everything in this day and age. So when it comes to providing guest amenities at your property, it always pays to think about ways you can connect them with what they love.

In 2015, the Where the Wires End Survey conducted by wireless network provider Xirrus, revealed the far-reaching impact wifi has on users’ daily lives, as well as its importance to the future of communication. Hundreds of respondents in North America and Europe were quizzed on their wifi habits and expectations and the results showed that the rapid expansion of internet of things (IoT) and bring your own devices (BYOD) “necessitate that all businesses re-evaluate how they design their wifi networks to meet users’ expectations to connect anywhere, on any device, at any time”.

We are living in a gadget-reliant age. Once upon a time, connection was just about emailing, texting and making calls abroad but now guests also want to update their social media wall, access their apps/content or just be entertained. It is also good not to be under the illusion that demand to access social media only comes from millennial or younger guests. According to the Global social media research summary 2016 by Smart Insights, “the over 65s segment are now driving growth, as other age groups have plateaued completely and use is hardly growing it all”.

 

Is the demand annoying?

Perhaps, but chew on this: an accommodation manager’s best friend is social media. Why? Because a positive mention or a great image of your hotel shared to a guest’s entire social network is an endorsement that’s worth its weight in gold. Of course, this can also work in a negative way but if you are doing a good job it is in your best interests to keep your guests connected and sharing their experience, typically on their smartphone with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. This prime opportunity for free promotion is yours for the taking, so help your guests access their social networks, so they can promote how wonderful your hotel is!

Guests across all generations also want access to their online subscriptions and content. They are accustomed to catching up on their regular news updates with ease, and want to retrieve content on their favourite apps and channels such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Stan, YouTube, and more. Accommodation providers who enable guests unlimited connection offer a more varied and personal service but spiking demand for connectivity, places an enormous burden on many hotel wifi networks and pressure is high to invest in better infrastructure. With content, not only on guests’ devices but in the cloud via streaming applications, a robust internet connection is vital for the success of your business, judging by the outpouring of complaints from guests on review sites when the internet access is poor.

For guests, poor battery life is a huge headache, there is nothing much worse than having a phone die in the middle of an important conversation or just before an urgent e-mail needs to be sent. Considering that a typical busy smartphone doesn’t have the battery life to last a day, being powered up matters and notably chargers are one of the items forgotten by travellers the most.

Moreover, in the process of providing guests with power, infrastructure and bandwidth to connect, you can invest as much money as you like in countless new technologies but it is all relatively useless if your area hasn’t been upgraded. Find out whether you have access to NBN or fibre optic cabling so you can get faster broadband speeds. If you don’t have access, it is well worth getting in touch with your local government to find out when your area will be serviced an upgrade so your accommodation can join the rest of the modern world. This demand for power and connectivity will only increase as more devices link to the internet [of things] such as watches and health monitoring devices.

In the meantime, try to set up easy phone and device charging solutions around your guestrooms as well as designated charging stations in the common areas of your hotel, as these are both relatively simple and clever ways to keep guests connected and happy. Providing Ethernet cable access in guestrooms may also be a way to strengthen internet connections for business travellers.

Dead battery anxiety can drive frantic guests to seek out power outlets around your property. If they find a vacant power outlet they will plug in, and may choose the most inconvenient spot in your property. With some studies indicating that customers would stay at an establishment up to 30 minutes longer if they could easily charge their device, why not design designated charging stations to direct guests towards destinations within your business that work well for you? For instance, to your bar, restaurant or café. Remember that saying, “if you build it, they will come”?

Today, the average traveller carries 2.7 mobile devices that need to be charged and the USB has become a default for charging. If your guestrooms have well positioned, obvious power points you can replace them with a power point that has two built-in USB ports to charge multiple devices. This will allow your guests to charge any mobile device they bring with them if they have the appropriate charging cable. It is also a good idea to ensure that there are at least two ‘free power’ outlets available for your guests and their range of gadgets. If your power points are not well located and you are not about to refurbish, there are other options.

Here are several ways to solve guestroom connectivity dilemmas:

Bluetooth speakers incorporated into bedside clock radios, mediahubs connected to TVs and wireless solutions allowing for wireless connectivity to TVs for content sharing are all handy ideas. Furnishing your guestrooms with useful tech amenities is an easy answer to your charging problems. You can’t help it if your area doesn’t have fast broadband infrastructure; a great way to compensate is having lots of charging docks and adapter cables (could guests rent an HDMI cable so they can mirror their phones to your smart TVs?) but watch out for the pitfalls.

Docking stations atop bedside tables might be a good solution, with enough space for gadgets and chargers is crucial, within easy reach, neat and compact. But don’t make it too complicated. No-one wants to spend 20 minutes trying to set an alarm clock without disconnecting their phone mid-charge. A bedside lamp with four USB charging ports, clock radio functionality and in-room sound system speakers would be awesome, but pointless if no-one knows how to turn it on. Make sure you choose something simple that prioritises universal, multi-device charging. Can a 10-year-old boy and his non-English-speaking grandma both easily work the device? Then it’s a winner.

Something else to bear in mind is that even when guests bring their own devices, they enjoy the novelty of using whatever device you provide in-room. Allow guests to connect to your in-room smart TV without damaging it, by providing your own HDMI cables or providing simple three-step instructions on how to mirror-screen their device to the smart TV, wirelessly.

Providing connectivity doesn’t have to be a huge burden as there are many options available to solve your technical dilemmas or at the very least, compensate for what you don’t have.

About Mandy Clarke

Mandy Clarke
Mandy is one of our most popular industry reporters. Make sure you never miss out on her monthly property profiles by subscribing to Resort News!

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